updated 07:00 pm EST, Fri January 4, 2013
Took only half the time Lion did to best Snow Leopard
Mac OS X 10.8.x, known as Mountain Lion and the current release of the operating system, has accounted for a majority share of the web traffic from Macs for the first time, according to new figures from web statistics firm Net Marketshare. The crowning comes just five months after the release of Mountain Lion, and took about half the time it took Lion (10.7) to take the lead position away from Snow Leopard (10.6) as the most popular version of OS X.
Snow Leopard is still the second-most popular OS X version installed, with just under 30 percent of the base compared to Mountain Lion's 32 percent; Lion is now in third with 29 percent. Earlier versions of OS X such as Leopard (10.5) and Tiger (10.4) have fallen to insignificant percentages, with Leopard around eight percent and Tiger around two percent.
Snow Leopard was the last OS X version to support PowerPC legacy applications, which probably accounts for its strong staying power, particularly for users of older Macs. It also set the stage for the ability to upgrade to future OS releases through the Mac App Store, which is why Apple continues to sell copies of Snow Leopard to users who wish to upgrade to the minimum required to go any further. Snow Leopard was unavailable (as is Lion) for some time before demand from earlier OS users put pressure on Apple to make it easily purchasable again. It has been previously available through phone ordering only after being discontinued when Lion was released in July 2011.
With roughly 90 percent of the active Mac userbase able to purchase OS upgrades through the Mac App Store, Apple's move to all-electronic sales of the OS (which transitioned fully over with Mountain Lion) is now complete, making it the only commercial desktop operating system to go with an all-download upgrade path. The change has enabled Apple to dramatically lower the cost of OS upgrades, which has turned out to be a significant selling point: Mountain Lion (and now Snow Leopard) sell for $20, and Mountain Lion (and Snow Leopard's original release) were $30, whereas previous OS upgrades had cost over $120 for most users.
Those who are on the latest version of Snow Leopard can "leapfrog" Lion and upgrade directly to Mountain Lion through the Mac App Store, as can Lion users. Those with earlier versions of OS X must meet the system requirements of Snow Leopard (basically any Intel Mac) and purchase a copy from Apple before they can upgrade their OS any further.
With Mountain Lion only five months old, there has been no substantive talk about OS X 10.9 and what it might include, but the company continues to work on improving ts most recent release. Developers are currently testing 10.8.3 betas for future release.